The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Great love or little?

"Her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."

Luke 7:47

In the Gospel reading for today's Mass (Luke 7:36-50) Jesus connects forgiveness with love. The woman who enters the house of the Pharisee to weep at Jesus's feet scandalizes everyone else by her mere presence. In their eyes, she is a sinner. She is an intruder--an uninvited guest. And yet, Jesus tells them all that because the woman's many sins have been forgiven, she shows great love.

Paradoxically, love is something that the Pharisee and his guests lack. They are not bad people. In fact, in today's world, they would be considered upstanding citizens, parishioners, or members of the congregation. They follow and uphold the Law. They do what is right and just. In them there is no wrong--but to a prideful fault. Indeed, what need do they have of a Messiah? They have made themselves like God--the sin which led to the fall of Adam and Eve (cf. Genesis 3:5) and made the world the broken place it is today.

And that is Jesus' point altogether. We cannot truly love unless we've been forgiven, and to be forgiven means acknowledging our weaknesses, limitations, and our sins--which every human being has in abundance by definition. It means being honest with God, with ourselves, and with others about who we really are. It is true humility. Mercy, after all, triumphs over judgment (cf. James 2:13).

For this reason, Jesus says to the Pharisee and his guests: "One to whom little is forgiven, loves little." And to the woman, he says, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Some have died as martyrs for the faith, and others have gone to heaven without doing so, but we must all be martyrs of love, if we wish to arrive there. This love must deprive us of all comfort in life, and load our shoulders with the cross. It must make us embrace hardships and overcome them by the burning charity God has kindled in us. Like all strong affection, it makes a person forget himself, and care only for the Beloved, who in this case is God himself, and his most holy will.

-- St. John of Avila

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